In their most powerful form, words have the ability to shape one’s character, self-esteem, and relationships. They can impact us for better or worse for the rest of our lives.
As moms, our words in particular shape our children, and the longer my motherhood journey continues, the more I discover this to be true. I’ve witnessed the positive impact of my words—evidenced by my girls’ grins, hugs, and outward joy—as well as the pain that my words can illicit, spoken in the moments of impatience or anger. Both can have a lingering effect.
If you’re like me and looking to add more life-giving phrases to your everyday vernacular, here are 8 things (outside of “I love you”) you should consider saying to raise strong kids:
1. “You’re an important member of this family.”
Though my 3-year-old doesn’t necessarily understand the full meaning of these words, one day she will, and in the meantime, she knows her presence matters through our time spent together and ample amounts of snuggles. Your kids will love knowing they bring unique attributes to the table and are an irreplaceable part of what makes your family special.
2. “I’m listening.”
I notice an immediate change in my oldest daughter’s body language when I get on eye-level and say to her, “Go ahead, I’m listening.” Her body relaxes, she speaks calmly, and the lines of communication seem to open wider. These two little words can be like honey for your kids’ souls. Its message conveys that their voices are important, and at the same time, it models active listening skills to them.
3. “I love being your mom.”
These are words I’m actively working on telling my daughters more often, especially after emotional outbursts or toddler tantrums. It’s something I never want them to doubt, and it is true, so why not say it!
Both of my girls take pure delight when I laugh at something they’re doing and tell them how fun they are. This statement can be said in more ways than one: “I loved baking cookies with you today,” “Spending time with you is the best part of my day,” or “I can’t wait to go see the movie with you this weekend.” Watch your kids’ faces light up when you tell them how much you enjoy being with them.
5. “I’m sorry.”
I say “I’m sorry” and “Will you forgive me?” so often these days, not necessarily due to trying to warrant apologies, but rather because I recognize how healing these words are when it comes to repairing relationships and modeling humility to my girls. Apologizing when you’ve done something wrong frees your kids from any expectations for perfection as they see you handling your own imperfections.
6. “It’s okay to fail.”
While my instinct is to swoop in and rescue when hardship hits, I try to keep the parenting motto “prepare your child for the road, not the road for your child” at the forefront of my mind. It may feel uncomfortable, but my kids need to know failure is a necessary component for growth and overcoming adversity. When your children fail, they will learn from their mistakes, build resilience, and become better problem solvers—all of which will serve them well on their journey toward adulthood.
When sicknesses, nighttime terrors, scary noises, and a number of other occurrences cause my daughters to doubt their safety, these words have brought them assurance and peace. No matter their ages, kids want to feel safe physically, mentally, and emotionally, and they need to know they can securely connect with us no matter what is going on in their lives.
So often, my responses to my kids are automatic and become nagging in nature: “Don’t push your sister,” or “Stop picking your nose,” or “No dessert before dinner.”
I’m not proposing you throw boundaries out the window, but rather become more aware of how much you focus on what your kids shouldn’t be saying, doing, or thinking. Personally, I want to be better at saying “yes” more often so that my “no’s” count for more.
The way we treat our kids and the words we speak to them impacts their beliefs about themselves. By regularly speaking these words to our children, our bond with them grows stronger and deeper. So keep pressing forward with grit and grace in your parenting journey!
Want to read more about connecting with your child? Check out a few of my favorite books!
Raising Great Girls by Darlene Brock
The Connected Child by Karyn B. Purvis, David R. Cross, and Wendy Lyons Sunshine
The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.
Safe House by Joshua Straub
Hey mom, you’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: How to Raise Responsible Kids: Tips for Every Age – 087!